By Spencer Schultz and Scottie O'Bryan
As Jamesville-DeWitt High School’s club treasurer and teaching assistant in the Classroom Alternative Program Diane Kelly has helped the J-D community since 1986. Unfortunately, Mrs. Kelly will be departing from her job at the end of the year. “I’m going to miss the people here the most. I just think that this school is a building full of smart, fun people,” says Mrs. Kelly. “I can’t think of a better place to work. I’ve worked at different businesses before, and nothing compares to J-D,” says Mrs. Kelly.
A graduate from J-DHS herself, Mrs. Kelly studied mathematics at Onondaga Community College and then University College at Syracuse University. She first began working at J-DHS in CAP 29 years ago after an old neighbor told her about a job opening at the high school. Since then, she has worked as a teaching assistant in the program
CAP is a program that provides students with a different learning environment from the traditional classroom. In CAP, the students work independently, and teachers come around if the student needs help. “I didn’t think I was going to stay in the program, because I had other things in mind, but I ended up falling in love with it because I like the challenge that comes with the job. I enjoy being with kids and love helping them,” says Mrs. Kelly.
Mrs. Kelly witnessed many changes in CAP since she began in 1986. When it first started, CAP was known as career alternative program, where students would go to BOCES for half of the school day, and then spend the other half in CAP. With the switch to block scheduling, CAP became a different type of program, with different types of students. “Nowadays, there are as many different students in CAP as there are reasons,” says Mrs. Kelly.
Though most J-DHS students will not notice Mrs. Kelly’s absence next fall, James DaRin, who has worked in CAP with her for the past 17 years, will miss the “friendship” that has grown between him and Mrs. Kelly. “She’s very good at her job. She is thorough, hardworking, and never leaves anything undone. Whatever the task is, she will find a way to get it done,” says Mr. DaRin.
Mr. DaRin feels that Mrs. Kelly has the perfect mentality to work in CAP. “Kids in CAP need supportive adults. They need adults that are consistent and someone that is caring enough to be firm when they need to be firm and also a little looser when they need to be. That’s Mrs. Kelly,” says Mr. DaRin.
Principal Paul Gasparini, who has worked with Mrs. Kelly for 14 years, calls her the most “beloved staff member in this building.” “She is one of the best people I know. Every student that has her as a teacher comments on how she helps them get through difficult times and see the big picture. The J-D community is going to miss her very much,” says Mr. Gasparini
Mrs. Kelly’s students are unanimous in their admiration of her. “She always has a positive attitude and is always excited to see every student that walks through her door,” says senior Austin Bacola.
Though Mrs. Kelly is “just” a teacher, her influence on her students goes far beyond academics. “As a student, she is a phenomenal teacher and is willing to help me with any question I may have. As a person, she has shaped me into a much more well-rounded person overall,” says Bacola.
After this year Mrs. Kelly will no longer be supporting J-D students, but she will continue to help people in a different way. In retirement, Mrs. Kelly plans on becoming a caregiver, for both her husband and her mother. “They need more care, for health reasons,” says Mrs. Kelly.
Mrs. Kelly also works as treasurer and manages the funds for all J-DHS clubs. For someone who studied mathematics in college, this doesn't come as a surprise. “Mrs. Kelly is a total math wiz,” says counselor Will Hartley, who, as Freshman class adviser, often works with Mrs. Kelly.
Mrs. Kelly is looking forward to her retirement; however, she describes it as a “tough decision” to make. “It was hard to retire. I enjoy coming to school everyday. The administration is fabulous, the teachers are fabulous, all the kids are fabulous. I can’t say enough, I love J-D,” says Mrs. Kelly.